Leadership: The Biggest Challenge for First-Time Leaders

  |   Leadership Print Friendly and PDF

Every day, people around the world become leaders for the first time. They think they know what challenges await them. They’re right about some of them.

When you’re a leader, you must solve problems you didn’t have to solve before. You must confront people about substandard performance or toxic behavior. It’s part of the job. You must also set the direction for your team and help your team members succeed.

Most first-time leaders know about those challenges. There’s one other challenge, though, that surprises many.

The Silent Killer of Leadership Challenges

Giving up control is the silent killer of leadership challenges. We don’t talk about it much, but it’s probably ruined as many careers as any other challenge.

When you become a leader, your power goes down. Before, if you wanted to improve performance, you could work a little smarter or work a little harder. Now, the team is your destiny. You must get the job done through the group.

What Not Giving Up Control Gets You

If you’re a new leader, you can try to exert control in a variety of ways. In fact, many new leaders do this during their transition. That’s when they learn that it doesn’t work.

If you try to exert control, you wind up with a whole lot more work to do than if you shared the work with other team members. The catch is, you must trust them to do a good job.

That’s hard. But it’s better than trying to exert control and increasing your workload, decreasing your team’s performance, and becoming the ultimate micromanager.

Many years ago, a wise supervisor said to me, “The best bosses really don’t do much except help their team members do a good job.”

Your Superpower

If you don’t have control anymore, what do you use instead? The answer is influence. Influence is a leader’s superpower.

Human beings are sensitive to hierarchy. They pay attention to who sits at the head of the table and who gets the perks. They watch you for clues about the right things to do.

Your influence and your example get the job done. Set the example you want your teammates to imitate. Do the other things that help people do a good job. Make sure they have the resources they need, counsel them on how to do their best work, help them grow and develop.

If you’re a new leader, forget having more control. You don’t. But you have a lot more influence, and your example means a lot. Help your people understand what good work is and how to do it. Help them get the job done, grow, and develop.


Just promoted from individual contributor? Check out my ebook, Now You’re the Boss: Making the Most of the Most Important Transition in Business.

Get a little better every day with my ebook, Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time.

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

There are no comments yet, why not be the first to leave a comment?